Letter to BS: Rules curbing airline stakes in airports should be reviewed

Aviation sector
Compliments for your editorial “Clearing the air” (October 4). The Airports Authority of India (AAI) seeking the solicitor general's opinion — on essentially a non-issue — is indeed for the sake of "abundant caution", to protect against the remote possibility of someone raking up the issue 10 years from now.

The matter is very clear from all angles: (a) the ultimate authority, the Competition Commission of India (CCI), has cleared it; (b) post investment by the Tata group in GMR Airports (GAL), the former's stake in DIAL will be only 12.8 per cent — almost half of what is needed to block any board resolution; and (c) there is a precedence by way of Air India (deemed to be) holding 26 per cent in DIAL. Even without taking into consideration the "pledges" given by GAL and the Tata group, there's no way the Tatas would be able to influence any decision favouring Vistara or Air Asia India. In any case, as clearly mentioned by the CCI, the allocation of slots is done by a coordination committee which has representatives from the government and all airlines. So what is there to discuss? Only, as you say, a review of the (irrelevant) rule as a matter of principle. Let the 2006 agreement between AAI and GMR be amended soon.

The clincher here is what you mention in the closing para of your editorial: chronic congestion at the Delhi airport leading to long queues for take-off and incessant circling for landings have to be addressed in national interest and this Rs 8,000 crore investment by the Tata group can facilitate that. Let's not miss the big picture.

Krishan Kalra , Gurugram
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